There’s an idea that football should always be played in a certain attack-minded and eye-catching fashion. It causes snobbery. But, as we’ve mentioned already, there’s no single way to win, as long as you’re putting the ball in the net.
Counter-attacking football is one style to have that treatment down the years, partly due to it being a key part of the classic, defensive-minded catenaccio style popularised by Italian football. But with the right blend of players, counter-attacking’s truly devastating.
Setting up a team to sit back in an organised shape and absorb pressure. Then, when they’d won the ball back, they’d spring forward and transition from defence into attack with lightning ferocity. It caught their opponent’s off-guard and short of numbers at the back.
Perhaps it’s not one for the purists, but it’s mightily effective when executed well.
It’s important to understand that, although counter-attacking relies on defensive work, it also requires an aggressive, forward-thinking mentality.
The idea weighs heavily on winning the ball back in midfield and then either dribbling or passing beyond the opponents’ deepest – or most reactive – midfielder. Then, once your team has successfully transitioned from defence to attack after that pass or dribble, you’ll want to expose the centre-backs, running directly at them to commit them, something Antoine Griezmann has become almost unrivalled at.
You’ll also need your defenders to push up and help overload the opposition.
When you’re putting this into practice on the training ground, let the play develop organically and try to refrain from interruptions.
Counter-attacking works best when creativity and ingenuity are allowed to flourish.
For more football tactics, drills and training advice, download the full pre-season guide below.